By Bill Parry
A 7-year-old East Elmhurst boy was killed in an early morning house fire on New Year’s Day when sparks from an unattended fireplace ignited pillows, blankets, a couch and Christmas decorations, the FDNY said Thursday.
The fire, called accidental by officials, started at 9:07 a.m. and quickly spread.
Christopher Miller was trapped by the flames, suffered fatal burns and was pronounced dead at the scene. His brother Matthew, 13, suffered serious burns to his body and was taken to Weill-Cornell Hospital, according to Deputy Inspector Michael Cody, commander of the 115th Precinct.
There were no working smoke alarms in the house, FDNY Deputy Chief Mark Ferran said.
He said two young adult house guests built the fire in a first floor fireplace and went to sleep without extinguishing it. The two boys were sleeping on the second floor. The mother was not at home and arrived after the fire was put under control according to Ferran.
On Thursday morning, Danny Belo, an employee of the boy’s father — club promoter David Miller — was attending to candles and stuffed animals left by passers-by in front of the burned-out home at near 31st Avenue on 90th St.
“He was a very nice boy, very respectful of people,” Belo said. “He loved playing baseball and was a big fan of the Mets. It’s very sad because he reminds me of my own 6-year-old son.”
A group of women stopped by, including a school bus driver named Julia. “He was a student right up the road at PS 148. I just came from there and all the teachers are crying,” she said.
Some 60 firefighter responded and three were injured. The FDNY said the three were treated and released.
Neighbors along 90th Street were stunned.
Cecil Nichols, who lives up the block and across the street, said he was walking along 90th Street a little after 9 a.m. En route to buy his morning newspaper when he saw black smoke pouring from the attached brick house.
Nichols told another man to call the Fire Department, as two neighbors ran over to the front door of the home and began banging to alert anyone inside.
“They were calling, ‘Wake up! Wake up!’” Nichols said. “Nobody responded and then the fire gushed out.”
Nichols said he did not know Christopher or his family but believed they had not lived in the East Elmhurst house for very long.
Fire officials said the house was engulfed in flames by the time they arrived on the scene.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.